Buying a Property Sight Unseen

buying a house unseen

Most people would find the idea of buying real estate without having seen it first an alarming and unwise course of action. The viewing process is an essential aspect of deciding whether a property fulfills your criteria, and house buyers are well known for making decisions based not just on practical considerations but the feel they get from the house. A perfect house that ticks all the boxes in terms of location, size of bedrooms, room layout and so on can be rejected simply because it doesn’t have the right ambiance for a particular buyer. Given the importance of seeing a property for yourself, is there ever a time when it can be a good idea to buy sight unseen?

Online shopping

We are so used to being able to order anything we like online, from groceries to sculptures, lawnmowers to kitchen sinks, and they all have a degree of uncertainty involved in the process. The reassurance comes from knowing you can send an item back if it isn’t right, for example, a dress that doesn’t fit or a duvet that isn’t as soft as you expected. It’s a minor inconvenience, but with consumer law in place to protect you, there are few serious risks.

There are selected purchases that don’t really work at all without seeing the item in person first. It’s not a great idea to buy a car unseen, for example. It might look great in the photos and sound ideal, but until you have spent some time with it and been out for a few rides, you won’t know the most important facts – whether you connect with the car’s nature and feel like it may be perfect for you, you still need to see it in person, test it out and have it thoroughly inspected before buying it. The purchase of a house is very similar, in that you can be very impressed by looking at photos but unless you see the house in person, you won’t know if it’s the place you want to live in. If you take the plunge and it turns out you don’t like the house when you get there, it’s then too late to do anything about it. Unlike a pair of pants, you can’t return a house to the seller, and this makes it an expensive and burdensome mistake to have to deal with. Why then would you consider buying a house without seeing it first?


If you’re setting out as a property developer, whether it’s as an interest aside from your regular job, or something you are planning to turn into a full-time business, you may have to search far and wide for suitable investment properties. Any time and money you spend on traveling to view properties must be set against potential profits, and you might feel it’s better to save on these costs, which can mount up if you have a lot of properties to view. The advantage of being in this situation is that you won’t be planning to live in the house, so the question of ambiance is not so significant. With this in mind, it is possible to carry out the purchase based on the information you have obtained from a distance. You could complete the entire renovation and resale process without setting foot in the house, but for most budding investors part of the attraction of the project will be playing a more hands-on role.


If you are planning to relocate to a new state or country that is a considerable distance from where you currently live, it may be unrealistic to personally view potential properties. The costs involved in flying to and from your home to see interesting houses would soon stack up to a level that would impact on the budget you have for the purchase and relocation costs.

If you currently live in Colorado and are planning a move to Barcelona for example, a single return flight and accommodation to view a property could run into thousands of dollars. Add to that the time involved in making such trips, and you are looking at a considerable investment that most people would find hard to justify. In this case, your best bet is to get as much information as you can about houses you are interested in, ask for photographs and/or a video file of every aspect of every room and a full tour of the outside grounds. Find out all you can about the local area, the amenities, the people, climate, potential hazards such as the likelihood of extreme weather or any dangers posed by the native flora and fauna.

Get every detail you possibly can and choose what looks like the best house for you. The odds are in your favor that if you have done your homework, the new house will be all you hoped for. If it turns out not to be, you will have to decide whether to keep it and work on it until it meets your expectations, or put it up for sale and try again once you are a resident and can view other possible homes.

Getting some help

If you are buying without seeing the house first, whether by choice or necessity, there are people who can help you make the best decisions and increase your likelihood of a successful purchase. A survey of the property is an essential requirement whatever approach you are taking to the buying process. If you don’t get an inspection of the house, you run the risk of having to deal with all manner of defects that aren’t obvious to the untrained eye and can’t be picked up from photos. Dry rot, damp, subsidence, drainage issues, pest infestation and many other problems can be avoided or used to reduce the asking price if you have taken professional advice. Employ a company like Exceptional Building Inspections and allow them to advise you on how to deal with all these problems.

It’s not something you might choose to do in an ideal world, but it is possible to find the right real estate and complete a purchase without ever seeing the property until you are the legal owner. If you find yourself in this situation don’t despair; get some help, do your research and you stand a good chance of making the right decision.